Oct. 13th, 2009

joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Today's Atheist Meme of the Day:

Atheists are not solely governed by logic, evidence, and science. We're also shaped by passion, emotion, intuition, and personal experience. What with us being human. We simply think that logic and evidence are best suited to questions of what is and isn't true in the real, non-subjective world. Including the question of whether God exists. Pass it on: if we say it enough times to enough people, it may get across.

This one drives me nuts. First of all, the assumption that we are heartless, have no feelings, or even disapprove of feelings, is completely and totally incorrect. We are human and "feelings" are a huge part of the definition of what it is to be human.

Second of all, why is it considered a "bad thing" to be governed by logic, evidence, and science? Science itself is done by people who are passionate about the subjects they are studying. Scientists find beauty, are overwhelmed by emotion, make intuitive leaps, just like everyone else. The only thing that logic and science tries to do with regards to emotion and passion is to make sure that emotion and passion is actually rooted in reality. It doesn't seek to eliminate it all together, that's not its function. 

The most rational, logical, analytical people I know are also some of the most passionate, exuberant, emotionally-driven people I know. These things go hand in hand. The difference is that the rational, logical, analytical people direct their passion and their emotion towards things that actually exist, things that are real, things that can DO something for them, things that can affect them in real life.

 I think that makes the potential for a stronger, more intense, more fulfilling emotional experience - when it's based in reality and not in fantasy. 
joreth: (Super Tech)
When discussing polyamory, I am often confronted by people who think it is reasonable to limit their pool of prospective partners to a single category.  This is often summarized by the cliche of the Unicorn, the Hot Bi Babe.  People confuse the very understandable desire to, say, limit their choices to people who don't want to eat babies in the middle of the night, with the idea that a single type of person is the only possible person that can make them happy.

What happens is that they say "I know for a fact that I can only be happy if I and my wife share the same person, and that person has no other partners, and we all live together in a house and raise children together and live off the proceeds from our chicken farm in Montana" (seriously, I was approached by a guy who said this once).  They then set out to find exactly a single bisexual female to give up all present and future partners, to love them both equally, who wants to raise children, leave her home and job to move into their house, and raise chickens.

And then they wonder why they can't find it.

There *are* some things that are deal-breakers.  For instance, I don't care just how much I might be attracted to the guy, if he likes slaughtering kittens, we're gonna have some relationship issues.  If he thinks that the Man is the King of his Castle, we're gonna have some problems.

But these people often come up to Franklin and say "wow, you have so many bi female partners, you must be really lucky!" and Franklin hates that, with good reason.  It completely negates all his hard work and effort to see people as who they are, not as providers for his happiness.  It completely overlooks the part where Franklin *sees* each person individually and leaves himself open to finding out how that relationship wants to work out.

As I keep saying, I find spaces for the people in my life, I don't find people for the spaces in my life.

And, as it turns out, there has been a study on this very thing.  It turns out that people who leave themselves open to just seeing what's out there, tend to be "luckier".  People who focus on a single outcome tend to miss possibilities and potentials that "lucky" people don't miss.  So when Franklin meets a woman, he just leaves himself open to learning about who she is and how she might naturally fit into his life and he into hers.  

When the Percivals (i.e. Unicorn Hunters) meet a woman, they are not open to the experience of who she is, they are evaluating her on how she fits a narrow list of criteria, and when she doesn't fit that exact list, she is rejected wholesale as unsuitable.  If she already has a husband, she is passed by without the Percival ever noticing that she actually *is* compatible with him and his wife, even with the husband, because the husband is also compatible and a quad could have formed.  But, since it's not a triad with a hot bi babe, it's rejected.  

People are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy.  And this study shows that people who are not fixed on a single idea are often happier, and "luckier" in life.

So, go out and just meet people.  See how things work without taking a preconceived notion of how you think they should work.  You might find that this person is, indeed, incompatible.  It doesn't mean you have to try dating everyone you come across, it means being open to considering the options and looking at it for what it is, not rejecting it for what it's not.  You might find a relationship that brings everyone happiness that you never even considered before.

And, interestingly enough, there's a note in there about how lucky people consider both logic and emotion.  The logical-only people fall into the "unlucky" category.

Those who think they're unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune, says Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman
Published: 12:01AM GMT 09 Jan 2003

A decade ago, I set out to investigate luck. I wanted to examine the impact on people's lives of chance opportunities, lucky breaks and being in the right place at the right time. After many experiments, I believe that I now understand why some people are luckier than others and that it is possible to become luckier.

To launch my study, I placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact me. Over the years, 400 extraordinary men and women volunteered for my research from all walks of life: the youngest is an 18-year-old student, the oldest an 84-year-old retired accountant.

Jessica, a 42-year-old forensic scientist, is typical of the lucky group. As she explained: "I have my dream job, two wonderful children and a great guy whom I love very much. It's amazing; when I look back at my life, I realise I have been lucky in just about every area."

In contrast, Carolyn, a 34-year-old care assistant, is typical of the unlucky group. She is accident-prone. In one week, she twisted her ankle in a pothole, injured her back in another fall and reversed her car into a tree during a driving lesson. She was also unlucky in love and felt she was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Over the years, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, questionnaires and intelligence tests, and invited them to participate in experiments. The findings have revealed that although unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.

Take the case of chance opportunities. Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities, whereas unlucky people do not. I carried out a simple experiment to discover whether this was due to differences in their ability to spot such opportunities.

I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

Personality tests revealed that unlucky people are generally much more tense than lucky people, and research has shown that anxiety disrupts people's ability to notice the unexpected. In one experiment, people were asked to watch a moving dot in the centre of a computer screen. Without warning, large dots would occasionally be flashed at the edges of the screen. Nearly all participants noticed these large dots.

The experiment was then repeated with a second group of people, who were offered a large financial reward for accurately watching the centre dot, creating more anxiety. They became focused on the centre dot and more than a third of them missed the large dots when they appeared on the screen. The harder they looked, the less they saw.

And so it is with luck - unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

I wondered whether these four principles could be used to increase the amount of good luck that people encounter in their lives. To find out, I created a "luck school" - a simple experiment that examined whether people's luck can be enhanced by getting them to think and behave like a lucky person.

I asked a group of lucky and unlucky volunteers to spend a month carrying out exercises designed to help them think and behave like a lucky person. These exercises helped them spot chance opportunities, listen to their intuition, expect to be lucky, and be more resilient to bad luck.

One month later, the volunteers returned and described what had happened. The results were dramatic: 80 per cent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. While lucky people became luckier, the unlucky had become lucky. Take Carolyn, whom I introduced at the start of this article. After graduating from "luck school", she has passed her driving test after three years of trying, was no longer accident-prone and became more confident.

In the wake of these studies, I think there are three easy techniques that can help to maximise good fortune:

Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about the various options, rather than simply looking at the rational side of the situation. I think this helps them because gut feelings act as an alarm bell - a reason to consider a decision carefully.

Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine. They tend to take the same route to and from work and talk to the same types of people at parties. In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives. For example, one person described how he thought of a colour before arriving at a party and then introduced himself to people wearing that colour. This kind of behaviour boosts the likelihood of chance opportunities by introducing variety.

Lucky people tend to see the positive side of their ill fortune. They imagine how things could have been worse. In one interview, a lucky volunteer arrived with his leg in a plaster cast and described how he had fallen down a flight of stairs. I asked him whether he still felt lucky and he cheerfully explained that he felt luckier than before. As he pointed out, he could have broken his neck.

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire. His book, The Luck Factor (Century), is available for £9.99 + £1.99 p&p. To order, please call Telegraph Books Direct on 0870 155 7222.